updated 5 January 2018
© Tine Harden

Hans Abrahamsen

Danish composer born 23 December 1952 in Copenhagen.

Hans Abrahamsen studied French horn and composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and in Århus (Jutland) with Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Per Norgård. He also trained with György Ligeti. In 1978, with other students of the Royal Academy, he co-founded the “Gruppen for Alternativ Musik” in reaction to the Acadamy’s conservative approach. With an extremely simple melody built around just three notes, his early Symphony in C (1972) was written in the spirit of the “New Simplicity” movement embraced by many Danish composers of that time.

A year later, Abrahamsen’s first string quartet, Préludes, a series of remarkable character studies, won audiences over immediately. In rapid succession, Abrahamsen composed a number of other works that added to his renown: Stratifications (1973-1975) weaves polyphony and polyrhythms together with traits from the “New Simplicity” movement to produce a striking, complex whole. Nacht und Trompeten (1981), commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic, was written for full orchestra by request of Hans Werner Henze, who conducted the premiere.

During the 1980s, he worked closely with the London Sinfonietta, a collaboration which led Abrahamsen to devote himself largely to composing ensemble music. Winternacht (1976-1979), composed for the ISCM World Music Days in Helsinki in 1978, is one of the early fruits of his work with the Sinfonietta, which later commissioned Märchenbilder (1985) and Lied in Fall (1987-1990) from him. These works, along with Six Pieces for violin, horn, and piano (1984), were influenced by serialism. In them, Abrahamsen affirms tremendous liberty of expression within strict structures in an effort to intertwine form and freedom.

This early period of his career is characterized by new simplicity and concreteness, as well as by transparency and objectivity. Later, however, Abrahamsen would seek more immanently poetic forms of expression, inspired by the German Romantics. In the 1990s, he devoted himself mostly to other composers, transcribing works by fellow Danes such as Carl Nielsen and Per Nørgård, as well as Satie and Schumann.

Abrahamsen’s concerto for piano (1999-2000) was a kind of condensation of his creative thinking of the previous decade and marked a stylistic turn. This third period of his career is characterized by pieces such as Three Little Nocturnes, for accordion and string quartet, and Four Pieces For Orchestra, performed at BBC Proms by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 2005. Among his more recent works, Schnee was first performed in its entirety by the ensemble recherche in Witten in 2008. A third String Quartet was also premiered that same year. Other new pieces, such as Traumlieder and Liebeslied, whose titles were inspired by the German Romantics, were premiered in 2009 and 2010, respectively. His fourth string quartet premiered at the 2012 Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik, performed by the Arditti Quartet. In 2013, he composed Let me tell you for soprano and orchestra, inspired by Paul Griffiths’ eponymous novel. Performed by Barbara Hannigan and the Berliner Philharmoniker, Let me tell you received multiple prizes, including the 2015 Royal Philharmonic Society Award, the 2016 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, and the 2016 Gramophone Classical Music Award for Contemporary Music.

Hans Abrahamsen has been teaching instrumentation at the Royal Danish Academy of Music since 1982, and composition since 1995. Since 1988, he has been the artistic director of the Esbjerg Ensemble. He is the recipient of multiple prizes, including the Anne Marie Carl-Nielsens Hæderspris (in 1989) and the Wilhelm Hansen prize (in 1998).

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2018


  • Anders Beyer, Grove Music Online ;
  • Thomas Michelsen, éditions Wilhelm Hansen - Chester Novello.

Liens Internet

(liens vérifiés en janvier 2018).


  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Strings Quartets No. 1-4, Quatuor Arditti, 1 cd Winter & Winter, 2017.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Let me tell you, Barbara Hannigan, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Andris Nelsons, direction, 1 Winter & Winter, 2017.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, 10 Preludes, Danish String Quartet, 1 cd ECM Records, 2016.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN,Three Little Nocturnes, Air, Frode Hallti, accordéon ; Quatuor Arditti, 1 cd ECM Records, 2016.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Four Pieces For Orchestra ; Concerto For Piano And Orchestra ; Ten Studies For Piano, dans Zählen Und Erzählen, Tamara Stefanovich, piano ; WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln ; Jonathan Stockhammer, direction, 1 Winter & Winter, 2014.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Bei Anbruch ; Walden ; In der Wäldern ; Wald ; Zur Nacht, Calefax Reed Quintet & Asko Schoenberg Ensemble, Reinbert de Leeuw, 1 cd Winter & Winter, 2013.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Schnee, Ensemble Recherche, 1 cd Winter & Winter - WDR 3, 2009, 910159-2.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Flowersongs ; Zwei Schneetänze, dans « Wookworks », Vicki Boeckman, Pia Brinch Jensen, Gertie Johnsson : flûtes à bec, avec des œuvres de Hans Henrik Brandt, Ole Buck, Leif Kayser, Ib Nørholm, Morten Nyord, 1 cd Dacapo, 2007, n° 8.226541.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Sonata, dans « L’Homme Armé - Works for Solo Cello », Morten Zeuthen : violoncelle, avec des œuvres de Vagn Holmboe, Svend Nielsen, Per Nørgård, Andy Pape, Karl Aage Rasmussen, Niels Rosing-Schow et Poul Ruders, 1 cd Dacapo, 2005, n° 8.226007.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, « Orchestral Works » : Stratifications ; Nacht und Trompeten ; Concerto for Piano and Orchestra ; Carl Nielsen, Three Piano Pieces Op. 59 ; Arnold Schoenberg, Four Pieces, from Sechs kleine Klavierstücke op. 19, Anne Marie Fjord Abildskov : piano, ensemble BIT20, direction : Ilan Volkov, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, direction : Thomas Dausgaard, 1 cd Dacapo, 2004, n°  8.226010.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Seven Studies, dans « Works for piano », Amalie Malling : piano, avec des œuvres de Tage Nielsen, Steen Pade et Poul Ruders, 1 cd Dacapo, 2004, n°  8.224019.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, 10 Studies for Piano ; Six Pieces for Violin, Horn and Piano ; Walden (version 1995), Anne Marie Fjord Abildskov : piano, Jeanette Balland : saxophone, Søren Elbo : clarinette, Signe Haugland : basson, Preben Iwan : cor anglais, Anne Søe Iwan : violon, Anna Klett : clarinette, Joakim Dam Thomsen : hautbois, 1 cd Dacapo, 2001, n° 8.224155.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Walden (1978), dans « Wind Quintets », avec des œuvres de Vagn Holmboe, Carl Nielsen et Per Nørgård, 1 cd Dacapo, 1994, n° 8.224001.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, Märchenbilder ; Lied in Fall ; Winternacht ; Carl Nielsen: Three Piano Pieces op. 59 posth., Christopher van Kampen : violoncelle, London Sinfonietta, direction : Elgar Howarth, 1 cd Dacapo, 1997, n° 8.224080.
  • Hans ABRAHAMSEN, String Quartet No. 1 “10 Preludes” ; String Quartet No. 2, dans « String Quartets », avec deux quatuors à cordes de Poul Ruders, The Kontra Quartet : Peter Fabricius : alto, Anton Kontra et Boris Samsing : violons, Morten Zeuthen : violoncelle, 1 cd Dacapo, 1992, dccd 9006.


  • Steen PADE, « Hans Abrahamsen: 2. strygekvartet, en analyse », Dansk Musik Tidsskrift n° 3, 1981–1982, p. 134-138.
  • Erling KULLBERG, « Konstruktion, intuition og betydning i Hans Abrahamsens musik »,  Dansk Musik Tidsskrift, n° 6, 1985–1986, p. 258-267.
  • Ståle KLEIBERG, Hans Abrahamsens musikk, poetisk billedkraft i musikalsk form, 89–114.